mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Ver – the opposite of Kheer

In Kashmiri, Rice, Traditions and Customs on December 17, 2008 at 11:35 pm

veri masala

As I said earlier, there is much Kashmiris make with rice. Besides being the staple on our plate it is also our preferred ingredient when it comes to celebrations of all kinds. All auspicious occasions begin with rice in some avatar or the other. Barring one sweet made with dry fruits all Kashmiri desserts have rice as the main ingredient. [Therein lies a lesson for all of us to look at statistics with a sharp eye - Kashmiri cuisine has 3.5 desserts in all!]

Kheer is the offering of choice for most Goddesses.  When a sweet offering will not fit the bill, taher is cooked to mark the happy occasion. Similarly, cooking and eating ver marks the beginning of important celebrations such as weddings and yagnopavit ceremonies.

Rice gruel is indeed the comfort food of all of Asia!  Chinese have congee, Koreans and Thai have jook, Malaysians and Indonesians their bubur, South Indians their ghanji/kanji, and we have ver.  But if you think ver is some insipid bland gruel you are sadly mistaken!

Ver is a delicious rice porridge that gets its flavour and name from the unique Kashmiri spice-blend called veri masala. Veri masala is a mix of spices (hing and Kashmiri red chillies predominating) and urad dal flour, mixed together with mustard oil, and shaped into thick discs with a hole in the center. The spice cakes are then dried in the sun and stored for later use.

The pounding together of the spices and perhaps, also the process of sun-drying creates a unique complexity of flavours that is more than the sum of its parts; the spice mix cannot be substituted with an instant mix of the ingredients. You will have to rely on a Kashmiri friend to source it. In Delhi veri masala and all other ingredients unique to Kashmiri cuisine, including dried eggplant, quince, and bottle gourds, can be found at the Durga Masala Store at INA Market.

I learned to cook ver from my maasi (mother’s sister) when she made it on my son’s yagnopavit ceremony a few years ago. There is a vegetarian and a non vegetarian version of ver. The vegetarian version uses walnuts for garnish and texture while in the non vegetarian version pieces of goat intestine do the job. While I am not too fond of the idea of eating the chopped up intestine of any animal, I love this dish too much and have on many occasions swallowed the animal parts without protest. I did what I had to do. If that is what made it taste the way it did, so be it…

Imagine my shock when I tasted the doone (walnut) ver and found it to have the same taste as the one with the chewy rubbery pieces of intestine! Yes, intestine is absolutely optional and has no bearing on the flavour. Just as well.

Those of you who have been patiently hanging on to a carefully cling-wrapped pungent piece of this spice for months :-) – this recipe is for you.  Besides this is the best weather to enjoy it in; cold winter evenings and a hot steaming bowl of ver. Perfect.

ver
Ver
(Kashmiri Rice Porridge)

3/4 C short grain rice
3 T (or more) mustard oil
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
1 t shah zeera (not caraway)
1 t Kashmiri red chilli powder
salt
1 t veri masala
1/2 C chopped walnuts

Pick over rice. Wash in a couple of changes of water and soak for 20 minutes.

Heat mustard oil in a heavy pan till it is smoking. Add hing followed by shah jeera. Now add the Kashmiri chilli powder. Stir and (to prevent the chilli from scorching) quickly add the soaked rice and about three cups of water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Simmer and cook, stirring every now and then to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom. The rice grains will start to soften and break apart as they cook. Add more water as needed – the consistency should be that of a creamy porridge.

When the rice has turned soft and creamy add the veri masala (break a piece off of the disc and crush to powder). Cook for a few minutes to allow the spices to be incorporated. Stir in the chopped walnuts and remove from heat immediately. Serve hot.

Note: Do not cook any further after adding the walnuts as the oil from the nuts can make the ver off-tasting.

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  1. At long last :). I have some verr masala that i have held onto for a long long time. I use it ever so sparingly :). Love verr, and it is perfect for winter-time, isn’t it. And mustard oil gives rice such a unique flavor!

    Tempting, feel like stealing some verr cake from the picture (the one i have is flat like a thick disc).

    How have you been doing?

    Good to see you too! I am doing alright. When are we having a Musical revival?

    You’re right – the mustard oil is half the flavour! And that colour has something to do with it too!

  2. *thud*
    You? Sharing secrets like this ver?
    *falls down again*
    Two posts in a day?
    *finds it difficult to get up and just passes out instead*

    [Melodrama...]
    The veri masala recipe is still under wraps….

  3. Her above may balk at your brazen banquet, but I LOVE crispy food! But I have a question: can we add the salt to the water before it goes into the pot? And what would be the best substitute for Cashmere chilli-perpers- maybe habanero powder? And how many mustard seeds must we squeeze to get 3T (or more)?

    And, you, sir – where did you come from?

  4. veri masala ….veri masala…off on a treasure hunt. ;)

    You will be rewarded… :)

  5. after your mustard oil infused rice i’ve used mustard oil almost daily and now it’s over. i don’t even know if my grocer stocks it any more. will have to check.

    Ah ha – another mustard oil aficionado! Get a bigger bottle this time!

  6. Good that you clarified Anita, Manisha’s comment made be go back and check if I missed to read the recipe for veri masala. You were very clear on keeping in under wraps with the vague description. :D
    All that praise for the pudding and zero chance of making it…hmph!

    I don’t mean to keep it under wraps forever ;-) Have to watch my mum make it before I post about it.

  7. I love anything cooked in mustard oil! It adds an unbeatable flavor but because it is heaty I use it only in Nov through Feb. Rice porridge looks great and I wish you would give the recipe for the masala involved!

    The masala wil make it here one day – I think it my mission to unravel all the mysteries of my mom’s kitchen!

  8. So I now know one more way to cook rice, if I can source the “secret” ingredient. :) Though I still find mustard oil a bit of an acquired taste.
    Why the 3.5 desserts?
    Almost all our desserts are also rice based and I think Pongal is the only savoury festive rice preparation we make.

    3.5 ’cause I think one is a variation of the other. We were too busy stuffing ourselves on meat to leave any room for sweets!

  9. Ah…if only I had access to such a beautiful-looking spice-cake- or the whereabouts of the formula for its manufacture, I could then prepare such a lovely bowlful to savour myself… [sighs 3 times]

    Ask Santa? Have you been good?

  10. Such a nice post but it is so not fair.Now where do you think I would get ver in melbourne?And me being a mallu cannot hope to get this in Kerala either!Maybe you can tell us how to make it–pretty please?

    I hope I post it sooner than later…

  11. Ah the net search starts… I need to find this mythical ver cake product for sale online.

    How jealously the recipe is guarded!

    Nice photo of the veri rice. It looks decadent and complex. Snowbound as I am, it looks perfect to me today.

    Maybe I can give you my cousin’s number… ;-)
    I love your blog!

  12. Anita,
    Just a quick note to tell you I tried your Chole recipe yesterday and it turned out fabulously delicious, I might reduce the amount of peppercorn the next time though. 2 of the 4 main dishes from last night’s dinner party were from MTP, your alu gobhi is a staple at home now. Thanks much!

    Happy new year to you and yours.

    Mamatha

    That recipe is now the topmost post!

  13. Never ever heard of it even though I have known a Kashmiri family for a long time. Would have to ask them next time I see them. Your description really want me want to try it :)

    It is quite simple to make if you have the special masala…you may find the recipe for it here one day!

  14. Happy New Year!

    Thanks, Sra! Wish you the same!

  15. Oh man! ver. Brings back memories…I’ve never been a fan of it though. Over the years I’ve tried both doone and meat version. I still like kheer better :) . Sweet tooth I guess ;)

    I love both!

  16. Nyahh Nyaah etc to all those people who don’t live near INA market – Im making a trip this weekend and getting me some ver masala! ;)

    Miri

    A very good rewarding trip – much else to discover there!

  17. Pray India has an terror free year ahead. Happy New Year Anita!!

  18. I loves me this opposite of kheer … those walnuts must add such a nice texture, have to get my hands on the masala now! Wish you a very, very bright New Year, may it bring you loads of joy and us many, many, more spectacular recipes!! :D

  19. this looks delicious Anita! Happy New Year to you and your family!

  20. i love kashmiri food and waazwan specially.
    I JUST LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. am so glad to discover ur blog!!!!! its recipes and being a kashmiri, i love reading about kashmiri food!!!

  22. Hi,
    Ver is a mixture of garm masala, usually kashmiri make it in summer to preserve it and use for harsh cold months of winter.
    its made up of kashmiri red clilli,corriander, big cardamons,turmaric powder, Cloves, garlic , ginger mix in mustard oil, but it needs to do a hard work, its not only to mix but blund in large bowl made of stone by hard wooden stick..until it makes thick and then make them a small round disc shaped roti and keep them in sunshine, until dry..then you can use in small quantity in every dish instead of garm masala.
    i hope its clear
    thanks
    saif

  23. [...] – weddings, yagnopavit (the thread ceremony) – the bua or maasi (aunts) will make ver, a risotto like preparation in which rice is spiced with caraway seeds, heeng, and vari-masala, and [...]

  24. […] buying (almost) every Kashmiri ingredient they stock – spices, dried Kashmiri chillies, veri masala, and al-hacchi and wangun-hacchi (sun-dried bottle-gourd and aubergines).  Santa is sure to bring […]

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